The future of comics lies in the developing talents of today and, judging by the first volume of Smuggling Spirits, we could be seeing a promising future blossoming right here. This is a definite two-pronged attack on our senses, as Ben Fisher’s story and characterisation draws us in and Mike Henderson’s art grabs us by the neck and holds us to the page with an unrelinquishing grip.
The plot takes a number of elements and ties them all together into a coherent whole. Central to the piece is the setting: a depression era America, where prohibition stops people from even drowning their sorrows. Families are scratching together a living and it’s a daily battle for survival.
For Nathan, a young orphan, there’s more than just poverty to worry about though – his world is also filled with demons and ghosts. Al, the man he’s travelling with, sees nothing of these monsters, mistaking them for natural dangers like snakes and vultures. This delusion helps Al deal with nightmares that might leave weaker men mad and screaming, and also helps him complete his work – picking up contraband alcohol and delivering it to bars still keen to sell it under the counter. How Nathan and Al ended up travelling together isn’t clear, but it seems likely that there’s no safer place Nathan could be.
On the art side, it’s clear that Henderson has been studying Frank Miller. His sharp-contrast black and white could probably fill gaps in Miller’s Sin City comics without you really noticing the master’s absence. His work is dynamic, powerful and full of movement and, blended into the prohibition era fantasy setting, is like Sin City meets H. P. Lovecraft.
Spooky action-packed horror is the order of the day, which we hope will build to more of a crescendo in the second volume. You may want to wait until we’ve reviewed this to take the plunge but if you’re a gambler with an eye out for some new and upcoming talent, Smuggling Spirits looks well worth a punt.
|Ready for Book 2?